When Americans stop being killed in Iraq it stops being called a war

Just as the State Department defines “terrorism” in terms of threats to American lives and threats to America’s national security, the war in Iraq is ceasing to be a “war” because fewer and fewer Americans are dying — as though the only blood that supports life is American blood; as though life itself only truly qualifies as such when it carries the American brand.

From a US base near Khanaqin, the New York Times reports:

Somewhere else, miles away from a tiny desert outpost where American troops dozed in combat vehicles and brewed midnight pots of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, another Iraq was seething. Iraqi bureaucrats and soldiers were killed by bullets and bombs. Iraqi army patrols were rocked by explosions.

But for the Americans camped out at this remote checkpoint, keeping watch over Iraqi soldiers and passing traffic, it was another quiet night of a quieted war.

They ate ribs and watched a slasher movie. They lifted weights and talked about Christmases spent in Hawaii. They took turns watching the headlights of watermelon trucks and oil tankers glide across the horizon of one of Iraq’s most violent and ethnically divided regions, noting routine radio chatter and shift changes in a logbook.

“It’s boring,” said Sgt. Bradley Jackson, sprawled out in a swamp-green Stryker vehicle, as he monitored the road to Khanaqin, a disputed town claimed both by Iraq’s Arab and Kurdish populations. “And that’s the way we like it.”

By no means is the fighting in Iraq over. American forces remain the targets of snipers’ bullets, rocket attacks, mortar launches and roadside bombs. Some soldiers are still shooting and hunting insurgents. Others are still dying, joining the ranks of the roughly 4,400 troops who have been killed since the United States invaded in 2003.

But largely, the newly renamed mission, Operation New Dawn, is a twilight war for the troops still living in dusty camps and sprawling corrugated bases across the country.

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